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About Me

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  1. Ok, so here goes with my second review of gear from the perspective of performing in SL. I'm one of those guitar players that is pretty much a devotee of the Boss line when it comes to pedals and FX. As an instrumentalist I started on keys like most of us do, and like most of us fell in love with the Roland line of keyboards. This sorta predisposed me to looking at the Boss brand from the same company when it came to buying stompboxes and other gear for my guitars. With that admission of potential bias out of the way, here goes.... Performing in SL has its issues. Our home studio spaces share some of the problems that plague live venues and that we've all dealt with, dirty power lines, overloaded outlets, sources of interference.. But one of those really tends to be worse in a home setting. Dirty power. That 50hz earth hum that no matter what you do somehow creeps in from somewhere that you can't back off the gain enough without making a channel unusable. It has to be admitted that guitar pickups are usually the culprit. They resonate with it as enthusiastically as a whore with a billionaire, if they have any hardwired connection to the main system. Guitarists through the years have wrestled with this, they've risked their safety by installing ground lift switches on their gear, manufacturers have built those things in where the local electrical codes permitted but just lifting the ground is sometimes not enough. You will see folks marketing wireless guitar systems as "freeing you from the tangled cable" but for us, in this environment, there is an even stronger argument. Your guitar won't hum no more. A wired DI box, giving you a balanced path into the mix, is great. It will often flatten the hum completely but it brings with it its own issues. Is it battery powered? If so then you're still buying or recharging batteries between sets. It's an expense. If it is powered off mains juice, then its a fresh "way in" for the hum. Almost certainly lower than from the guitar using a high-Z unbalanced cable but it can be there, and if it can you know that it will exactly when you dont want it to. And you're still wiring the guitar to the DI box with a standard cable - otherwise known as an "antenna". Once the hum is in the sound you can connect it to the desk as cleanly as you like and it won't go away. A few months ago I had the opportunity to add a WL-50 to my pedalboard. I have to say, I love this thing. The transmitter contains a built-in switch that mutes it when disconnected from the guitar. You can switch guitars in the middle of a stream without either having to dedicate separate input channels to the two guitars or subjecting your audience to the unplug/replug pops and clicks. The receiver is the same size as most Boss stompboxes and just sits on the end of your pedalboard like another effect. Slot the transmitter into the receiver and it charges it up. All of the usual stuff that you want with a wireless instrument system. And it is SILENT. No hum at all, in what I must admit is a horrible power/interference environment, even when I crank the input gain on that channel to insane levels. Now, the downside to systems like this is, as the manufacturers admit, that it can't be guaranteed to work with guitars that have active electronics. If your guitar needs a battery then the odds are you will have problems with this system - either no sound at all or a persistent clicking and popping. BUT THIS IS AVOIDABLE. the reason for the problems is that guitars that have active electronics actually use a TRS(tip/ring/sleeve) socket - what you may think of as a "stereo socket" - while expecting a TS(tip/sleeve) plug - "mono" or standard instrument cable. The guitar uses the ring connector to switch on and off the electronics so it doesn't run down your battery when not plugged in. Wireless systems like the WL-50 use a TRS plug on the transmitter to make it detect when its plugged into the receiver rather than a guitar. Two devices using this connector in different ways has unpredictable results. So stick a like-to-like quarter-inch TS adapter between your guitar and the WL-50 (or indeed any other wireless system with this issue) transmitter. The most commonly available ones are right-angle adapters, for obvious reasons, but there are others. It just has to connect a mono TS socket to to a mono TS plug.The guitar sees a TS plug. Ring and sleeve connectors in its socket are grounded together. The guitars electronics operate as intended. The wireless transmitter sees a TS socket which doesn't have a "ring" connector, so that voltage "floats" as expected and it "knows" it's plugged into an instrument. Stick an adapter like this on every guitar you'll use in a set and move the transmitter between them with the lack of pops and clicks from plugging and unplugging. Just remember to remove the adapters from your guitars between sets/rehearsals or you'll run down the battery powering your guitars electronics.
  2. I haven't seen many musicians talking about gear on here - maybe I can start a trend Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome on stage my new backing vocalists, Vic and Eddie, the Stompbox brothers... I've always looked a bit askance on "vocal effects" but when you make the transition from performing as part of an ensemble to being a solo performer something has to give... This is also true for those of us that stream music live because while dual streaming is possible it really is a pain to do it anywhere close to right. Particularly in my genre where vocal harmony is so much an integral part of many tracks, it was time to bite the bullet and see if a vocal harmony stompbox could cut the mustard. My plan was to get one then run it through one set of batteries in familiarisation, rehearsals, letting some buddies mess with it and potentially a live set or two. At that point I'd know if it was a keeper or not and could decide if I wanted to buy in the other bits and pieces to use it right or pack it away for either return or an eventual departure to CraigsList. Short answer, the VE-2 is a keeper. Let's start with the thing most of us get this for, the harmonies: When they are working at their best they sound awesome, tracking a guitar input or a preset key extremely well and sounding clear and natural. If you're a tenor guy or a lass you're pretty much set for anything you might be singing. However if, like me, you're a baritone, be careful. The lower harmonies do get a bit robotic in the lower part of your range - but that's usually fine because if you're using this as a bari you probably will be using the upper harmonies most anyway. Another caveat for baritone and bass voices is that the lower-pitched your vocal range the more sensitive the device is to the slightest inaccuracy of your singing pitch. I vaguely remember something about the math of the fourier transform that makes this almost inevitable but to me it's just another example of the shocking injustice that has all the best tunes for adult male voices written for tenors. Seems the decent gear is built for tenors too! The "preset key" harmonies, I found to be a little lacking. They do track the key you set well but sometimes the box gets confused whether you are singing in a major key or its relative minor without an instrument input to follow. For the same reason the "hybrid mode" (use the preset key when the instrument input is silent) can produce some unpleasant surprises. Because of this I would not recommend the use of this device on songs you perform a capella. Let it track an instrument along with your voice and you'll have much better-sounding results. The reverb and delay: There's really nothing much to say about this feature. Does "exactly what it says on the tin" and does it well enough. The enhancements: The built in EQ/compression surprised me with its quality. Other than standalone units patched into the desk and being handled by a decent engineer you're not going to get much better, its single preset seems to work well for most voices - provided you *want* compression on your vocals, of course. The pitch correction, on the other hand, YUCK! Do not touch this with a bargepole. Not only is it a "feature" that really ought to be accomplished with actual vocal skill, it sounds really screwy - doubling over your voice rather than actually "correcting" anything. I tried deliberately singing a little off key and I could clearly hear both in the mix, making the vocal deviation more strident and obvious. With any kind of chops as a vocalist you should never need this and if you *do* need it, it does the exact opposite of helping. If that light is ever green, you're doing it wrong. The build quality is first-rate, like everything else carrying the Boss brand. It's solid as a rock. So, what are the negative points? Only one, really. I wish it had the option to double up an octave harmony with one of the others. The only combination of two harmony voices featuring octaves is 8Up+8Down. You can do 3Up+5Up but not either 3Up+8Up or 5Up+8Up. As a bari, I'd rarely use the 8Down voice at all but I suspect a lass might notice the lack of 3Down+8Down and 5Down+8Down in the options as much as I do the higher ones. Other notes: DO take the time to set up the memory presets for your setlist, because while nobody can actually see you bending down to adjust the settings on your stompbox, they can hear the break in your performance's flow. It's surprisingly noticeable to a listener. With memory presets set up (the three presets plus "as set on the dials" should be enough for a set, since you won't be using the harmonies on every track and one preset can often serve more than one track) that's one button press to switch between them instead of fiddling with a few knobs. If your budget runs to it, seriously consider adding a footswitch for cycling the memories - if you perform IRL as well as streaming online this quickly becomes a must-have. You can switch between memories using the boxes built-in main switch but it's a fiddly multi-press process that will break your flow as badly as leaning down to apply new settings.
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